As Barron’s reported this morning, Gabelli & Co. analyst Hendi Susanto and Universal Display executive Darice Liu speculated that AMOLED display might be limited to a “specialized edition” of an ‘iPhone 8’ (also referred to as ‘2017 iPhone’ and ‘Tenth Anniversary iPhone’) until suppliers are able to meet Apple’s needs for a full rollout.
While AMOLED technology provides significant power savings with crisp images, vivid colors, deep blacks, high contrasts and great visibility outdoors, these panels are difficult and pricey to fabricate on a mass-scale: that’s why only flagship devices have them.
The market penetration of AMOLED displays in smartphones is still low and at an early stage. According to Susanto, AMOLEDs are currently below 300 million units out of 1.3 billion of annual smartphone shipment units.
That’s about to change soon: Samsung said AMOLED display pricing is now lower than that of high-end LCD displays. The South Korean company also confirmed that demand of AMOLED displays in the second quarter of 2016 exceeded its capacity.
“This is notable considering that AMOLED display production scale is minute compared to the global production scale of high-end LCD displays,” said Susanto.
And here’s an excerpt from Susanto’s report:
Speculation regarding the potential adoption of OLED displays by Apple continues to dominate major discussions with investors. The current speculation anticipates Apple’s adoption of OLED displays in its iPhone in 2017 or 2018.
We believe that Apple can adopt OLED displays sooner rather than later by pursuing a partial adoption and incorporating it in a specialized edition of a new iPhone version. This will alleviate the needs of huge supply capacity and accelerate OLED display adoption.
Alternatively, Apple could choose to wait and finally adopt OLED displays for all new iPhone versions. We remain cautiously opportunistic. We believe it’s a matter of when, not if.
What exactly might constitute a “specialized edition” of the iPhone 8 is anyone’s guess.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that perhaps it’s an ‘iPhone 8 Pro’ model or maybe AMOLED technology will initially roll out in an ‘iPhone 8 Plus’ model.
Of course, all of this is pure speculation.
In my view, Apple will wait until its suppliers can ramp up production to provide sufficient AMOLED displays for deployment across the full iPhone 8 lineup rather than lose the mega-upgrade momentum by limiting AMOLEDs to certain iPhone 8 models while shipping others with the boring old LCD TFT technology.
And with AMOLEDs providing a superior experience, who in their right mind would opt for an LCD-based iPhone 8 after comparing its display quality to that of its AMOLED counterpart?
All that is reasonably safe to speculate at this point is that Apple appears poised to make a major technological switch from LCDs to AMOLEDs.
Another analyst—Kevin Wang of IHS Technologies—predicted that the Tenth Anniversary iPhone’s AMOLED display will be curved on both sides, like on Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge, enabling a bezel-less appearance.
In addition to an edge-to-edge AMOLED display, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber heard from sources that the phone’s front-facing camera, the Home button, the sensors and even Touch ID might be integrated into the display itself.
The iPhone 8 should include other significant hardware upgrades, like a cutting-edge processor.
Taiwanese semiconductor foundry TSMC in May finalized the design of the iPhone 8’s ten-nanometer ‘A11’ system-on-a-chip. A report earlier this morning said that the iPhone 8 will also use Apple’s in-house designed AMOLED display driver chip.
TSMC should fabricate both the main A11 chip and the AMOLED display driver circuitry.
Image: Layers of the TFT LCD Retina HD display in iPhone 6/6s.